Have you ever noticed that the centre of the X-Men is a paradox? The X-Men are, more than anything else really, warriors; they train to use their powers in simulated combat, and even their most passive mutant members – such as Cypher – are expected to develop combat experience. And what makes this a paradox is the fact they’re fighting for the cause of peace!
Nobody symbolises that more than the New X-Men character Indra, who was initially little more than wallpaper – until Mike Carey got his hands on him in X-Men: Legacy. Indra, we learned, is a Jainite; a practitioner of one of the oldest religions in the world, one that has a central principle of non-violence. Here’s dialogue between Indra and Rogue, from after he used his powers in battle:
Even at this level, it’d be tremendous; however, cast your eye to the name Indra chose for himself. Indra is the god of war, the armourer of heaven. Rogue, in one telling scene, comments, “Ah just think it’s a strange name for you to go for. As though you were labelling a part of yourself. Or a potential you saw inside yourself.” (I guess, once you’ve absorbed enough minds, you get to become an amateur psychologist or something!)
All of this means that Indra is a fascinatingly divided hero. Under Rogue’s tutelage, he began to develop his powers to ever more significant degrees; he can summon a psychic armour, and even generate psychic weapons (typically blades, but it’s unknown if he’s actually restricted to those). His most amazing moment was this:
Carey, of course, couldn’t leave such a wonderfully contradictory character alone. And so, we got the rather unusual ‘Collision’ storyline, and we faced Indra with the challenge of his life head-on. Indra was summoned back to India, where he found his brother in a coma; and, due to family honour (and a father with an attitude problem the size of the Empire State Building), he was to marry in his brother’s stead.
Of course, it all went pear-shaped. A powerful light-manipulator escaped from the Corridor, a city outside of normal reality. This girl, Luz, was very different to anything Indra (or, entertainingly, Indra’s father) had ever encountered before. And she was deeply attracted to Indra.
Ultimately, Indra chose to reject his father’s ways – as, entertainingly, did his bride; she pretended to be Luz and got herself captured by the Children of the Vault, while Luz pretended to be Indra’s bride and actually went through a freaking wedding ceremony! It all ended with the Corridor blasted out of reality once again, Luz sadly aboard, but the final scene made it quite clear she still had her sights set on the guy she rather fancied…
To me, Indra has the potential to be another Nightcrawler; a man of contradictions, holding on to (or perhaps rejecting?) his faith in a world of chaos. In other words, this is a character who, if handled well, could become the heart of tomorrow’s X-Men.
And then you have the possible left-field plotline. Often, Indra has felt as though the warrior within him is another person; what if it is? Marvel have been unblushing in their attempts to use Pantheons of gods as heroes (Thor and Hercules are the most prominent examples, from different strands of mythology). Could Indra open the way for the X-Men to come into contact with something else, something new?
Of course, first the writers would have to stop using him for wallpaper again!